Bye week comes at right time for injured Cats


Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow (2) passing the ball during the first half of the UK football game against Alabama at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, October 12, 2013, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Kalyn Bradford

By Matt Overing | Football beat writer

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The first half of UK football’s season did not go as planned. The Cats are 1-5 (0-3 SEC) with four consecutive losses, all to ranked opponents. UK starts the second half of the season next Thursday at Mississippi State University (3-3, 0-2 SEC).

The Cats’ first loss of the current four-game losing streak came at the hands of in-state rival University of Louisville on Sept. 14.

After the 27-13 loss to Louisville, UK had its first bye week of the season, which head coach Mark Stoops said his team needed to heal up.

“I think we’re a little banged up,” Stoops said. “Most teams in the country are.”

After UK lost 48-7 to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, Stoops echoed the same remarks.

“I think we’re pretty banged up,” Stoops said. “I felt that. We’ve been in some big games for a while, and (Alabama) beat us up pretty good.”

Sophomore quarterback Jalen Whitlow went down injured on the second drive of the game on Saturday, crippling the UK offensive game plan. UK coaches are expecting Whitlow to be out against Mississippi State.

Last season, Whitlow started against Mississippi State. He split time in the first half with then-freshman quarterback Patrick Towles before Towles went down with an injury.

Towles and freshman quarterback Reese Phillips will compete for the backup spot behind Smith as long as Whitlow is injured.

Towles, now in his second year, and Phillips have yet to see the field this season, and both are expected to redshirt this year.

Whitlow’s replacement, sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith, said the bye week will help the team recover.

“We have some guys banged up,” Smith said. “The bye week is good. It will help us a lot.”

Senior linebacker Avery Williamson, who has been playing with a cast on his wrist for most of the season, says the team needs wins in the second half of the season.

“I feel like these games are winnable,” Williamson said after the Alabama game. “We have to grind and dig and try to get some wins.”

When asked about the injury report after Saturday’s game, Stoops said he wasn’t sure how many players were hurt.

“There’s so many guys,” Stoops said. “I hate to get into it right now, but we’re banged up.”

The Cats’ last win against Mississippi State came  in Starkville, Miss., in 2008.

Since that 14-13 UK victory, Mississippi State has won four straight meetings. Each of those four wins have been decided by 13 points or less.

With the possibility of the tight game, UK may need the rest of another timely bye week to win the battle against the Bulldogs.